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The overture to the opera William Tell, especially its high-energy finale, is a very familiar work composed by Gioachino Rossini. There has been repeated use (and sometimes parody) of this overture in the popular media, most famously for being the theme music for the Lone Ranger radio and television shows, and it is quoted by Dmitri Shostakovich in his Symphony No. 15. William Tell was the last of Rossini's 39 operas, after which he went into semi-retirement, although he continued to compose cantatas, sacred music, and secular vocal music.

The overture is written in four parts, each segueing into the next:
  • Prelude - a slow passage with low-pitch instruments such as cello and bass
  • Storm - dynamic section played by full orchestra
  • Ranz des Vaches (call to the dairy cows) - featuring the English horn (this segment is often used in animated cartoons to signify daybreak)
  • Finale - ultra-dynamic "cavalry charge" galop heralded by trumpets and played by full orchestra (this segment is often used in popular media to denote galloping horses and became the Lone Ranger theme music)

Franz Liszt prepared a piano transcription of the overture in 1838 (S.552).

Notable cover versions and parodies

  • Spike Jones and his City Slickers released a parody version of the Overture in 1948. It peaked at Number 6 on the charts and is typically included in "greatest hits" compilations of Jones' work.
  • Mike Oldfield released his cover of the Overture in 1977.
  • The song served as the B-side to Glen Campbell's 1977 No. 1 hit, "Southern Nights".
  • Wendy Carlos recorded a Moog Synthesizer version of the finale for the Stanley Kubrick film version of A Clockwork Orange.
  • Victor Borge used the cavalry-charge phrase in one of his short routines, in which he played the sequence of notes in a "downward" scale instead of "upward", and in a higher octave; then got a laugh from the audience when he said "Ohhhh!" and turned the sheet music "right side up" and played the tune correctly.
  • Joey DeMaio, the bassist for the power metal band Manowar, recorded a solo bass version of the Overture for the debut Manowar album Battle Hymns under the title of William's Tale in 1982.
  • Comedian Anita Renfroe uses the finale of the overture to back her "Momsense" segment.
  • The galop section is also utilized for most of "The Presidents", a song about the Presidents of the United States, sung by the Animaniacs.
  • The galop section is also the "Happy Anniversary" song, from an episode of The Flintstones.
  • The song was featured prominently on the U.S. television game show The Price Is Right's now-retired pricing game "Hurdles" as the hurdler raced across the gameboard. The song was also used as the clock music for "Race Game" in the 1985 syndicated version.
  • A more electronic cover "Tell" was made by Kyle Ward and was used in the game In The Groove
  • British comedian Bill Bailey, along with the BBC Concert Orchestra, performed a 'Cockney Arrangement' version of theme as part of his live show "Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra". The 're-arrangement' involved mixing the Overture with 'cockney' music including "Any Old Iron", and the theme tune from "Bullseye ".
  • A jazzed-up version of the Overture was used as the theme song for the Canadian children's program You Can't Do That on Television from 1981 to 1989.
  • Brave Combo adapted their unique take on the Overture for use as the opening theme song for the PBS television series Click and Clack's As the Wrench Turns.
  • In the later seasons of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the overture can be heard notably in "Busy Going Backwards"
  • A quarter-mile strip of asphalt in Lancaster, Californiamarker was grooved to play the William Tell Overture (albeit somewhat off-key) for motorists driving over it at 55 mph with Honda Civics as part of an ad campaign for Honda.
  • In the SpongeBob Squarepants season six episode "Krabby Road," Patrick Star plays the finale by banging his stomach like timpani.
  • The overture is played at many sporting events. At University of Iowamarker basketball games, the song is usually accompanied by members of the student section wearing a cowboy hat and riding a stick horse.
  • Rock'n'roll versions include "Piltdown Rides Again" by The Piltdown Men and "Apple Knocker" by B. Bumble and the Stingers.
  • In Japan, it was used as an opening theme of the variety program 'We Funny Families(オレたちひょうきん族)'.
  • Disney did a version of this in the short-cartoon classic Hannah Montana.
  • The Magic School Bus used a variant of the fourth movement as Carlos's "Concerto for Invented Instrument" in the episode "In the Haunted House".
  • In the Philippinesmarker, a show for kids called "Chikiting Patrol" has a theme song with a tune similar to the overture.

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